Trail Impressions: Garmin InReach Mini
Product review of the Garmin InReach Mini and 5th Gen 4Runner Installation
We live in a connected world. Communicating with people has never been more common, relied upon, or simple. And whether we like it or not, communication voids make getting off the beaten path more challenging at times.
Not being able to communicate with family in case you are needed back home, or the inability to get in touch with a buddy/emergency services when you head out alone might make you wish that there was a way to bridge the communication gap.
With the Garmin InReach Mini, you can afford the luxury of contacting whomever you need at your convenience and emergency services when you need it most.
Garmin InReach Mini, Specs and Price
- InReach Mini: Check Today’s Price
- Size: 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03”
- Weight: 3.5oz.
- Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
- Battery Life: Up to 90 hours at 10-minute tracking (default)
- Water Rating: IPX7
How it works
The Garmin InReach Mini is a 2-way satellite communication device that utilizes the global Iridium satellite network to send and receive messages to anyone, along with Garmin based GOES emergency services.
Basically, if you have a clear view of the sky, you have the ability to communicate with others while you’re miles away from conventional cell service.
The InReach Mini is a powerhouse of capability given its compact size. It fits in your hand weighing less than 4oz. and has the ability to talk to satellites…. IN OUTER SPACE.
As far as gear nerdiness goes, this device is up there. It’s IPX7 water rated, meaning it will withstand splashes, rain, or taking a shower with you. A claimed battery life of 90 hours (at 10-minute tracking intervals) comes courtesy of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
A standard mini-USB will charge the device under the weather resistant flap, making charging on the go simple.
Available in either an incognito black or blaze orange finish, the InReach is ready for your needs.
The subscription plans
As with anything good, there is a price to pay.
In the case of the InReach, the price comes in the form of a monthly fee for your device. This fee can vary depending on your communication needs. You can find the individual plans here on the Garmin website but I chose the annual basic “safety” plan.
It’s the cheapest option at $12/month but it provides year-round coverage and a host of options. For the weekend warrior, this plan will likely be more than enough coverage but calculate how many times per month you intend to use the service and what exactly you will use when you do.
If you just want to send a message when you get to camp, the basic plan works very well. If you want to track at frequent intervals, the recreation plan might be a better fit at $25/month.
Whatever you decide, make sure you account for emergency situations when you might need it the most.
The InReach allows you to send messages to virtually anyone with a phone number, email, or compatible InReach device. This is broken down into a few categories:
- Preset Messages
- Preset messages are three customizable messages that are programmed into the device and can be shared an unlimited number of times regardless of your subscription plan.
- Quick Messages
- Pre-programmed messages can be sent to anyone, but they count against your overall message allotment. These make common phrases like “I broke something and need help” or “Wish you were here” easier to send because you won’t need to type them into the device.
- Custom messages
- Custom messages can be written and sent from the device itself, or when paired with a bluetooth equipped phone or tablet, can be typed and sent from an external device. These messages also count against your overall message allotment.
The InReach Mini is equipped to guide you on your trip by using preloaded waypoints to show you what direction to go and how far you are from your target.
This form of navigation is VERY basic and won’t guide you like a traditional map-based device like the InReach SE+ or Explorer+.
It’s best used to point you in the right direction if needed, but not as a sole means of navigation. When paired with a compatible device the Mini is able to communicate your location on the corresponding Garmin Earthmate app.
In the app, you have a more complete form of navigation using the downloadable topographic maps. One caveat with this is that it requires you to run Bluetooth to pair with another device which reduces your battery life. In my opinion, if you need a device for navigation, look at the Mini’s larger counterparts the SE+ or the Explorer+ which both have color screens and built-in maps.
In a pinch, the Mini will make sure you don’t head in the wrong direction and into a bad situation.
Garmin InReach devices have the ability to request and download weather information for current locations and any preloaded waypoints along your journey. InReach utilizes weather data from the Dark Sky Company who is well known for pinpoint accurate forecasting. This accuracy is welcome on the go when cell service isn’t available and weather updates can mean the difference between a good trip and a very bad one.
When paired with a Bluetooth device, the weather updates can be viewed through the Earthmate app in full detail and color.
The basic weather updates count as 1 text message from the subscription plan, and a premium weather update costs $1.00 (added onto your monthly bill).
The farther you travel from home and away from the “safety net” of cell phone coverage, the more you risk not being able to contact anyone in an emergency situation.
Equipped with every InReach is an SOS button hidden behind a protective flap. When pressed this activates a 24/7 monitored GEOS signal that will dispatch emergency services to your location as well as inform your emergency contacts of your situation.
Because the device is a 2-way communicator, responders can talk to you about your situation and come up with the best course of action moving forward.
If there is no response, they will still send responders to help you at the last location ping.
Whether you use this feature or hopefully not, it does provide a welcomed safety blanket to your adventures, especially if you travel alone.
Installation in the 4Runner
I installed my InReach Mini on the center console area using a RAM ball, short arm, and their Garmin specific Spine mount. This mounting location is out of the way from common movements and takes up a previously ‘useless’ space in the coin holder.
An angled micro-USB cable keeps the Garmin charged while it’s mounted, and thus it’s ready to go in case of an emergency.
The mounted position keeps the Mini secure in case of an accident where an unsecured location might cause the device to shift or be unreachable when needed. Installed in this location, I haven’t had any issues with GPS reception using the device and it is easy to see the screen from the driver’s seat.
These devices, at least in my opinion, aren’t for updating your social media accounts or for catching up on a group chat with your buddies.
What they do offer is a peace of mind for yourself in an emergency and for others to let them know that you’re alive and well.
I plan on bringing it with me on my vehicle-based adventures as well as other outdoor activities like mountain biking and hiking. Could I get by without it? Many have before me, and many will after me. But if the option is there to have it the one time I might need it, I will gladly take my InReach with me.
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